Sleepy Hollow's third and likely final season aired this weekend, and the finale perfectly captured everything that was terrible and wonderful about the show. What started as a fun, nerdy, and thrilling genre show quickly became an incoherent mess plagued with behind-the-scenes drama.
The show's two brightest assets were the charming Tom Mison as the old-school Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie as the likably pragmatic Lt. Abie Mills. No matter how contrived the circumstances as the two faced increasingly odd supernatural forces, the chemistry between the two actors was infectious and kept many viewers coming back. The storylines which often intertwined historical events with inventive supernatural revisionism, a trend that was popularized with Seth Grahame Smith's mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was also a draw.
In the fantastic first season, the two faced the Headless Horseman (of the Apocalypse!!) and a twisty story that set-up a brilliant premise. Then, the underwhelming second season made a series of missteps including a complicated mythology, a focus on Crane's intolerable witch wife Katrina, an emasculating backstory for the horseman that removed all the terror, an annoying Indiana Jones-type character named Hawley that brought the show to turgid halt, and worse of all, an insignificant side story about Sheriff Frank Irving (featuring the outstanding Orlando Jones). By season three, the shark had officially been jumped and we were treated to Pandora's lackluster box, a one-note ancient god (I. DESTROY. ALL. HUMANS. And stuff.), an endless trip to the interdimensional catacombs were Mills (and the remaining audience) went mad.
Behind the scenes, the show was in turmoil (and hopefully one day we'll witness the full story right from the horseman's mouth). Orlando Jones wanted out since his role was never fully developed, there was huge fan backlash against Katrina and Hawley, ratings struggled, the show was moved from a prestigious Thursday night to a dumping ground of Friday night, and even Nicole Beharie reportedly also wanted out of her contract. And most troubling, the showrunner (the person responsible for day-to-day management, operations, and overall creative authority) quit the series. Oy.
The third season was set up for failure from the beginning and as the finale proved, it was a discordant, boring mess held together by two fine performances of Mison and Beharie. The writers gave Mills a send off in midseason winter finale (when she walked into an exploding tree portal?) but the network reconsidered and brought her back for the rest of the season for an even more abrupt finale. The connection between these two characters is what made Sleepy Hollow tolerable and the really the only reason to tune in. I've made peace with this as a fitting series finale since it wrapped up much of the dangling storylines, reconnected long lost characters, and brought a blissful end to two of my favorite characters in a long time. It's so disappointing that the promise of this series never fully materialized, but we'll always have the fun first season.